Green Beans with Walnut Miso

One way to change from slumber to wide awake is stepping barefoot on a Lego brick. I assume an experience that all parents somehow share. Sooner or later they will get you – or your foot. These days at our home those evil Lego bricks collude with walnut shells. Lucky me! While still deciding which one hurts more, my patience not to curse full-throated through our home gets tested almost every day.

What is left from our big pile of walnuts

On our family vacation we collected this huge bag walnuts from the garden and I never expected them to be that popular among my girls. Even more so I was surprised about their speed in using the nutcracker, which kind of explains the shells all over our living room. But those nuts are magic. They turn tired, cranky and hungry little monsters that come home fighting after a long day of school and kindergarten into a cheerful little gang collaborating in cracking and eating those nuts.

Who am I to change this dynamic, although I actually planed a different use for the walnuts: I wanted to make a batch of walnut miso sauce, which is one of my favorite addition to blanched green beans (and always good to have in your fridge for when you are running out of time). But its use is far from being limited to that. I can think of many vegetables that would benefit from being topped with walnut miso sauce and I even like it a s a dip. So before they are all gone, I grabbed a few handful for tonights dinner.

Recipe for Green beans in Walnut Miso sauce

Serves 6

  • 300g green beans
  • 150ml (Kombu) dashi
  • Splash of soy sauce and mirin
  • Splash of mirin (sweet sake)
  • 80 g shelled walnut
  • A heaped 1  Tbsp.  white, sweet miso
  • 2 tsp. mirin
  • a splash or more  of (kombu) dashi


Pour 150 ml (kombu) dashi in a wide container and season it with a splash of soy sauce and mirin .

Green beans waiting in dashi to be plated

Bring a fairly large pot with water to a rolling boil and blanch the beans until they are tender but still firm (about five minutes after the water has returned to a boil). Drain and DO NOT refresh them in cold water, but put them in the seasoned dashi instead.

Dry-roasting walnuts

Dry roast the walnuts in a pan over medium heat. Use a suribachi (Japanese mortar) to grind the nuts until they form a paste. If you don’t have a suribachi use a western style mortar and pestle instead. Mix the walnuts with the miso and the mirin and thin it out with (kombu) dashi to your preferred consistency. You may do this in a separate bowl or in the suribachi to avoid any loss.

Crushed walnuts

Take the green beans from the dashi, cut them to your preferred length (depending on your serving style) and arrange them with the walnut miso sauce. You can either coat them by mixing it with the sauce in the suribachi (and use the suribachi as a serving bowl) or serve the green beans on a plate and arrange the sauce on top.

Final Dish: Green beans with walnut miso sauce on top

Tip: You can prepare a lager amount of walnut miso sauce and keep it in the fridge for later use. In this case omit the dashi until you are ready to use it.

Storing Water Kefir Crystals

So we are definitely hooked. Hooked on water kefir. A couple of days ago I bottled quite an amount to take on a family vacation trip, but it was gone within three days. Back home the first thing I did was starting a new batch. Four new batches to be precise. Being relatively new to water kefir I want to really understand it and as such I experimented with the way to store water kefir. Whether you are absent for a couple of days or want to have a break for a bit longer, it is good to know what works and how it will influence the end product.

How to store water kefir (for a long time)

So before we went on vacation, I made 50g-portions of the water kefir crystals and stored them in four different ways:

Waterkefir crystals covered with icing sugar. The sugar will melt and form a syrupy brownish liquid
Waterkefir crystals covered with icing sugar. The sugar will melt and form a syrupy brownish liquid
  1. Fridge:
    Water kefir crystals floating in 10% sugar water in the fridge (in a loosely lidded non-reactive container),
  2. Fridge:
    Water kefir crystals covered with icing sugar (in a loosely lidded non-reactive container),
  3. Freezer:
    Freezing water kefir crystals, barely covered in 10% sugar water and
  4. Dryed:
    Water kefir crystals laid out to dry on a of clean piece of cotton, stored well aerated at room temperature
Dried water kefir crystals shrink about 80% and chance from translucent to brown
Dried water kefir crystals shrink about 80% and chance from translucent to brown

How to Reconstitute water kefir

A couple of days ago I slowly defrosted my frozen water kefir crystals and prepared four identical jars to reconstitute the water kefir, hoping for yummy lemonade at the end. Each jar contains:

  1. One liter water
  2. 80g caster sugar
  3. two dried prunes
  4. one dried fig
  5. two slices organic lemon (with the peel)

After the first 12 hours all but the pre-frozen water kefir crystals showed -although significantly restrained -definite signs of fermenting activity: carbon dioxide is rising and the crystals seem to grow and split which is normal behavior during the fermentation. After 24 hours all four jars were happily fermenting and I could test the taste of their products after 48 hours:

After 48 hours all four jars were on their way.

10%Sugar Water Sugared Dried Frozen
Sweet/Sour Very sour Very sweet sweet pleasant
Bitter very bitter medium bitter medium
CO2 Very low low medium medium
Amount of crystals 119g 80g 44g 126g


Resulting water kefir after storage. Difference in taste and color
Resulting water kefir after storage. Difference in taste and color

Type and  Time of Storage

All four ways of preserving water kefir crystals were successful, in the way that all of the crystals survived and could be re-activated for further fermentation. I assume that storing water kefir crystals for a long time in sugar water in the fridge might be problematic. Even though the temperature reduces the activity, is still happens and as such at some point of time the yeast will rund out of food. So i would opt for drying or freezing the crystals if the storage is intended to last for several weeks or a couple of months.

Taste and Reconstitution

In favor of comparison I used 50g water kefir crystals for each way of storing. In the end my little experiment showed that the different ways of preserving the crystals have an impact on their return to a normal activity level:

  • Using the sugar water method has practically no impact on the activity. That is the reason why the lemonade turned out too sour and almost without CO2. The 50g that I put to storage were too much for the 1l sugar water I used for reconstitution.
  • The crystals that were sored in icing sugar took a little while to get back to normal fermentation mode and as a result the residual sugar in the lemonade was unpleasantly high. Given that the possible storage time is about the same as using sugar water I do not see an advantage using this method.
  • The dried water crystals didn’t propagate well compared to the initial amount. But given that the 50g reduced to 10 after being dried, the 44g are not too bad. A reduced fermentation activity seems logic with this drastic way of preservation and the result was satisfactory.
  • Freezing water crystals works well. Initially I thought that -18 C will ultimately kill the bacteria, but due to their very slow fermentation in the beginning the 50g/1l-water ratio resulted in a very good lemonade.


As a result all water kefir crystals have survived, but only the frozen ones produced a pleasant lemonade right afterwards, whereas the first batch of the other three methods had a difficult taste. The second batches however, with the right amounts (see recipe here), were indistinguishable.

  • Water kefir crystals can easily be stored long- and short term
  • The more drastic the method (freezing/drying vs. sugar water) the slower the re-entry into fermentation mode
  • The first lemonade will most likely not have a pleasant taste, but all methods have a normal taste after that.

Japanese Water Crystal Lemonade

Our Family got bigger. Unfortunate for the grandparents and the girls it is not another baby – only water kefir. It lives happily together with all the other jars and containers that are bubbling and fermenting whatever is inside and produces continuously yummy, healthy lemonade.

Water kefir is kind of like the German ‘Hermann cake’ or the Amish Friendship Bread, that was popular when I was a kid. Except of my husband I don’t know any kid of the 70’s and 80’s that has not brought one home from school.

What is water kefir?

Also named Japanese water crystal, water kefir is a symbiosis of yeast and bacteria – similar to kombucha, that will culture sugar water in a couple of hours to make a naturally fermented homemade soda that is rich in probiotics, B vitamins and food enzymes. In its basic form the taste reminds me of bitter lemon or ‘Fedeweißer’, the partially fermented young wine that comes to the market in Europe in late September/early October.

Fermenting water kefir

To my knowledge water kefir is not produced commercially, but it is easy to get the grains online, although I found a huge difference in price. Some individual vendors hand off their grains for free if you pay postage and some commercial companies sell the same amount – 30g (enough for one liter) – for as much as 18,90€.

In the beginning you don’t need more than those 30g, because in a favorable environment (relatively hard water and enough food (sugar, nitrogen) for the yeast & bacteria) water kefir grows fast. An increase of 25% is almost happening and I have seen it doubling often as well. All you need is relatively hard water, sugar and some dried fruits.

This is what I put in my water kefir the time. A mix of dried prunes and figures, raw sugar, lemon and ginger

Recipe for one liter water kefir

  • 1 liter water (25% warm water, 75% cold water)
  • 75g Sugar
  • 2 round slices of an organically grown lemon (if you don’t like a slightly bitter taste remove the peel)
  • 3 dried figs
  • 30g water kefir grains
  • glass jar that holds 1,5l (without lid)
  • clean cotton cloth
  • rubber band or string


Dissolve the sugar in the warm water and mix it with the cold water to get one liter sweet water at room temperature. Put the rest of the ingredients into a clean glass jar and fill it up with the sweet water. Put a clean cotton cloth on top and secure it with a rubber band or a string, so that the developing carbon dioxide can escape Now leave it to ferment for about 48 hours at room temperature. Unlike kombucha it doesn’t need to be dark, but avoid direct sunlight.

When its done, take out the dried fruit and the slices of lemon and strain the lemonade through a plastic strainer, catching the water kefir grains. Rinse the grains and wash the jar before starting your next batch.

You can drink your lemonade right away or fill it in glass bottles and put it into the fridge for a second fermentation. The remaining micro-organism will ferment the slower than the water kefir grains, so it is safe to put a lid on the bottle. Trapping the carbon dioxide during the second fermentation results in a refreshing, nicely prickly lemonade!

Starting out water kefir with some crystals, dried fruits and lemon

Changing the taste of your lemonade

Water kefir offers a gazillion ways to change the taste, inviting you to experiment with whatever you can think of. Play with the ingredients and/or with the time and temperature of fermentation until you have found your favorite style. E.g. if you prefer it not so sweet, extend the fermentation time, so more of the sugar is being consumed by the yeast. When playing with the recipe, make sure that you always have…

  1. Some form of liquid (water or tea)
  2. Some sort of sugar (honey, brown sugar, maple syrup etc.)
  3. Some sort of dried, non-sulfurized fruits
  4. Some sort of natural acid (lemon, grapefruit, lime …)
  5. Optional: edible flowers, herbs, fruits, aromates (e.g. ginger, cinnamon, vanilla pod…)

Some combinations that I have tried or that I have on my list to try when the season has arrived are

  • Ginger, lemon and thyme
  • Fruit tea and plums
  • Green tea, kaki and lemon
  • Black tea, Lemon, vanilla pod and cinnamon
  • Green tea and yuzu
  • Water, elderflower and lemon
  • Green tea, rhubarb and lemon
  • Water, strawberries, lemon and mint
  • … you see the list is endless

Things worth knowing about water kefir

  1. Water kefir doesn’t like metal, so use glass and plastic utensils when dealing with the grains (strainer, funnel, jars etc.).
  2. The importance of hygiene in the kitchen, especially when dealing with fermentation shouldn’t be new, but the be safe I mention it again
  3. Pausing to make water kefir. If you want to stop making lemonade for a couple of days or are going on vacation, put your water kefir grains and 10% sugar water (100g sugar for 1l water) in an non-lidded glass jar in the fridge. When you want to restart simply rinse the grains and use them according to the basic recipe.

Summer days dried eggplants

The far away sound of crickets is riding on the cool breeze that is coming in from the window next to me. A welcoming refreshing sign of the upcoming fall. I like fall. The golden colors, the rich crops and the turning leaves. I like to watch kids jumping through piles of leaves and joyfully throwing them high in the air. I like the silky touch of shiny, dark-brown chestnuts and the coziness that slowly enters the homes.

French postcard-like harbor romanticI do look forward to fall, even though I know how much I will miss those long lazy summer days. Days where my girl’s laughter fill the backyard way past sunset, when back-to-school is still far away. Happy-go-lucky days with normal life being on hold. Maybe not always voluntarily, but on hold – for a few weeks only. Living the days without any plans, enjoying the moment. Doing things just because.

French summer feeling: A scooter as bright blue as the sea

For many years now we spend this short period of time in Southern France. Far away from the tourists that populate the area at that time of the year we spend sunny days between lavender and plane trees. We play hide and seek in a box tree-labyrinth and pick grapes from the side of the path behind our home.

Picnic of the locals at Gruissan harborWe strive through the nearby harbors and local markets and get inspired by the opulence of colors that pile up appetizingly on each stall, begging us to take them home.

Impressive Entrance to the Narbonne marketBaskets full of oysters and seafood

Vegetables piling up at the market

My time is the early afternoon. While the ‘big’ girls play full-throated in the garden I sit next to the open window and listen to the regular breathing of my youngest one taking her nap, regenerating to be able to keep up with the other two until nightfall – or mommy – will force them to stop. Last year I used those moments to make umé boshi (pickled plums). This year I am capturing the summer making sun dried eggplants. Given the intensity of the sun in Southern France at this time of the year and the abundance of fresh eggplants an easy project, promising exciting kitchen experiments in the colder months to come.

Like all Kambutsu (dried products) sun-dried eggplants need to be reconstituted in water before they can be used. When using untreated eggplants the water can serve as a stock (dashi) for further cooking or as a soup. Especially Japan’s temple cuisine (shojin ryori) uses such vegan dashi (e.g. also shiitake-dashi, kampyo-dashi, kombu-dashi) from a single ingredient as well as a mix of different dashis .I must admit this is my first time to experiment with sun-dried eggplants. It might be an old fashioned way of preserving food but maybe it is because of this I am looking forward to give it a try.

Recipe for Hoshinasu (dried eggplants)

Take a few eggplants (however many you like), wipe the surface with a damp cloth and cut them to your liking. As you can see I made two varieties: Thin strips and chunks.

Eggplants cut into chunks

Auberginen in JulienneI decided for two widely different cuts to have more options when using them later. Lay the pieces out in the sun on a bamboo basket, rack or any other flat aerated tool (mine was formerly used commercially to dry prunes). The eggplants should not get wet. Neither in the rain nor with the humidity at night. Take them inside if necessary or cover them with a clean cloth, ensuring aeration throughout the entire time to avoid mold.

Drying eggplants A net is protecting my eggplants against hungry birdsThe eggplants are done when they are hard to the touch. The time varies depending on the thickness of your cuts as well as the temperature and humidity. My chunks took a good three days and nights and the julienne were done within two days.

Eggplants finished drying

Blog event on pickling, preserving and fermenting

It all started while I was flicking through my old Japanese cookbooks. The granny-style ones where the pictures of the authors remind me of the old yellowed pictures of me as a kid, where my grandma had a similar haircut. I was looking for an inspiration what recipe would be a good idea to share in Anika’s blog roll. ‚Vergissmeinnicht-Rezepte einer Floristin’ is Anika’s blog which she started to preserve the old family recipes. That’s why her blog translates to forget-me-not, recipes of a florist, combining her education as a florist with her passion as a cook. With ‚Kulinarisch auf Vorrat’ – which translates into culinary preserving – she asked 15 bloggers to share their recipes for pickling, preserving and fermenting. A wonderful potpourri of ideas how to capture the summer before it disbands for this year.

When I got the email that it would be nice to chip in a tsukémono-recipe, I didn’t need to think twice. Tsukémono is definitely one of my soft spots. Ever since my first encounter with Elizabeth’s nuka-pot, I am fascinated by the way the Japanese way of preserving, pickling and fermenting. Soon afterwards a nuka-pot became a member of our family and travels with us wherever we go. My girl’s eyes spark in delight when I serve them takuan (giant radish pickled in nuka for several months). If I top this with a bit of Yukari infused rice (dried shiso leaves from making umé boshi) and a miso soup I instantly have three happy girls.

For the blogevent I decided in favor of a classic pickle recipe. Sun-dried eggplants would be far too easy, plus the German summer this year would make it next to impossible. Takuan is pretty advanced, but more than that it cannot be done in small portions, so not really suitable either. In the end I decided in favor for an all-time-classic: Gari (pickled ginger).

Stay tuned for instructions on what you need to do to get pink ginger without any additives and color enhancements.

Shōjin Ryōri @ Berlin Food Art Week: A Japanese Vegan Food Art Experience

Experience Extraordinary Events. Discover the exploding taste of sustainability for all your senses…

I am proud to demonstrate SHŌJIN RYŌRI – Japan’s peaceful temple cuisine that will blow your mind during this year’s Berlin Food Art Week.

SHŌJIN RYŌRI Event Description

Discover the alluring blending of Japanese culinary concepts in one meal, which incorporates every last bit of each ingredient while appreciating and respecting the seasons, nature’s bounty and the diligence and ingenuity of the people that produce it.

For the event seasonal fruits and vegetables will be carefully transformed into nutritionally sound and aesthetically satisfying dishes that avoid waste and sustain our natural resources.

Experience Shojin Ryori –Japanese Buddhist Cuisine, paired with carefully selected Japanese sake tucked away from Berlin’s buzz in an intimate setting.

  • When Saturday, July 08,  7 pm
  • Where ExBerlin, Zionskirchplatz 16, 10119 Berlin
  • Tickets Get your tickets here


This dining experience is Omakase-style, which is the Japanese tradition of letting the chef choose the dishes for you. It literally means “I will leave it to you” and it is a fine tradition that gives the chef creative freedom to focus on the freshest and most seasonal ingredients on the day of preparation.

Still nee to be convinced that SHŌJIN RYŌRI is for you?

  • Learn more about SHŌJIN RYŌRI here
  • Questions about the  SHŌJIN RYŌRI-event or about ‘The Taste of Japan’? Drop me a line:
  • Visit the Berlin Food Art Week-website for more information and the full program

Cherry Blossoms in Rice: Sakura Gohan

Breathtaking beautiful, but only for a short moment. Cherry-blossoms are known for its short but brilliant blooming season, a natural process that not only symbolizes the start of spring but also metaphorically describes transience of human life. Two weeks until the delicate pink and white petals return to earth like snowflakes in the wind.

Last year I wrote about the Japanese custom to serve cherry blossom tea at weddings. Every time I remember that custom I am filled with the grace of Japanese politeness, which you can glean here.

A different and very common culinary use for salted cherry blossoms is sakura gohan (rice mixed with salted cherry blossoms). Wonderful to take with you for a Hanami picnic, but equally wonderful to be served at home for dinner. For tonight I decided to double the cherry blossom experience and shape our sakura gohan into a cherry blossom itself.

Cherry Blossoms Kirschblüten Reis


The cherry blossom mold equals one portion of rice which is about ½ a Japanese cup (100ml) of uncooked rice. Due to the salt the rice keeps well at room temperature, so you can easily make the sakura gohan cherry blossoms ahead of time and keep it covered at room temperature until the rest of the food is ready to eat.

Rice with cherry blossoms: Ingredients (Japanese rice, salted cherry blossoms, rice mold)
Rice with cherry blossoms: Ingredients (Japanese rice, salted cherry blossoms, rice mold)
  • ½  200ml-cup             Japanese rice
  • 120 ml                          Water
  • 1 Tbsp.                         Chopped, salted cherry blossoms
  • 1                                    salted cherry blossom for decoration (optional)

Method for making cherry blossom rice

Wash the rice well, cook it in a rice cooker or on the stove and leave it to steam with the lid closed for another 15 to 20 minutes after it is done cooking.

Making of cherry blossom rice 1: Sprinkle chopped cherry blossoms onto the cooked, hot rice
Sprinkle chopped cherry blossoms onto the cooked, hot rice

Shake off some of the salt from the cherry blossoms and chop them finely. Keep the salt for another use (remember mottainai – nothing goes to waste in the Japanese kitchen). The salt from the cherry blossoms has a wonderful scent and tastes delicious as a finishing salt on grilled fish.

Making of cherry blossom rice 2: Forming a ball of rice
Forming a ball of rice

After the rice is done steaming you should fluff it up and sprinkle the chopped cherry blossoms on top. Now you carefully work the cherry blossoms in the rice, ideally using a shamoji (a plastic or wooden spoon for rice). Make sure to use cutting and folding motions to avoid the rice to become mush. That’s it. Serve your sakura gohan directly in rice bowls or shape them to your liking into onigiris, logs or cherry blossoms.

Making of cherry blossom rice 3: Put the rice in the wet (!) rice mold
Put the rice in the wet (!) rice mold

Introducing onigiri in more detail has long been on the editorial schedule for this blog. So if you are interested to read about the different kinds of onigiri, how to make them and some of the fillings, I invite you to subscribe to the newsletter.

In order to make sakura gohan in the shape of a cherry blossom you need to have a cherry blossom mold.

Making of cherry blossom rice 4: Make sure to gently press the rice in the corners
Make sure to gently press the rice in the corners

Make sure that both – your hands as well as the mold are wet, otherwise the rice will stick to both and shaping it neatly will not be possible. Gently form a ball with the rice in your hands and drop it into the mold. Use your fingertips to help the rice into the corners, put on the lid and apply gentle pressure.

Making of cherry blossom rice 5: Gently press down the rice
Gently press down the rice

Lift the lid and double check that the rice fills the entire mold. Decorate the top with a single cherry blossom if you like and give the rice a final, gentle press with the lid. To release the rice from the mold hold the lid down with your thumbs while your fingers lift the mold up. Now wiggle off the lid to make sure not to ruin the shape and serve your sakura gohan-cherry blossom.

See the pictures below for more details on the process:

Making of cherry blossom rice 6: Add one cherry blossom for decoration (optional) and give the rice a final press
Add one cherry blossom for decoration (optional) and give the rice a final press
Making of cherry blossom rice 7: Lift the lid body of the mold with your fingers while pressing down the lid with your thumbs
Lift the lid body of the mold with your fingers while pressing down the lid with your thumbs
Making of cherry blossom rice 8. Take off the body of the rice mold
Take off the body of the rice mold
Making of cherry blossom rice 9: Gently wiggle the lid of the rice mold off the rice
Gently wiggle the lid of the rice mold off the rice
Making of cherry blossom rice 10: Now its time for plating
Now its time for plating


Nothing goes to waste: Tskudani from left over kombu

It is often the little things that touch your heart. Little things that become very special for one reason or another. Little things that don’t have a real value but a history that makes them invaluable. One of those precious items that I am referring to is in my sensei’s fridge. Whenever Elizabeth is making dashi she pulls out a little plastic box, decorated with tiny flowers all over. A container that she got from a person that means a lot to her and who has also used it to store the kombu from making dashi. Each time I take my kombu from the strainer to put it in a random, ordinary container I am pulled back into Elizabeth’s kitchen and I can hear her say ‘when the lid doesn’t fit anymore it is time to do something with it’.

Yukari: already powdered on the left and sun dried after making my ume-boshi (pickled plums)
Yukari: Already powdered on the left and sun dried after making my ume-boshi (pickled plums) on the right

Saving the kombu when you make dashi is a very good idea. Not only is it frugal and serves Japanese sense of Mottainai*, you would also miss out on a wonderful opportunity to create something delicious. As I mentioned last week, this time I remembered to take pictures when making a staple food from left over kombu in my house: Tskudani. A soy-simmered kombu relish that I paired with some of my girls’ most favorite seasoning: Yukari.

Ingredients: Kombu, Soy Sauce, Mirin, Sugar and Yukari (not pictured: sake and vinegar)
Ingredients: Kombu,  mirin, sugar, soy sauce and yukari (not pictured: sake and vinegar)

Ingredients for 1 jar Tskudani (ca. 100 ml)

Step 1: Tenderizing the kombu

  • ca. 6-7 pieces Kombu (each ca. 5 x 10 cm) from making dashi
  • 500 ml Water
  • 50 ml (ordinary/ low grade) vinegar

Step 2: Making the Relish

  • Tenderized Kombu from step 1
  • 1 tsp Sugar
  • a good Splash of sake
  • 50 ml Mirin
  • 60 -70 ml Soy sauce
  • 1 EL Yukari powder


For the first step cut the kombu into bite size pieces.

Left over combo from making dashi
Left over kombu from making dashi

I usually cut my kombu into 2 cm squares when preparing it with yukari, Bring the water to a boil over high heat (ideally in a non-reactive pan). Add the vinegar and the kombu and cook for about 5-6 minutes or until you can pinch it easily with a fingernail. I find the kombu from Japan needs less time than the kombu from Korea that I bought in Germany, so be prepared to check doneness of your kombu a few times more when you do this dish for the first time, When the kombu is tender, drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water.

Kombu cut into bite-size pieces
Kombu cut into bite-size pieces

Put the kombu from step 1 in a clean pot and add sake, mirin and soy sauce. Simmer over low heat, reducing the liquid until it is almost gone. Pay close attention, because this happens quite quickly and has a tendency to scorch. When the kombu is glazed, add the yukari and transfer it into a clean glass jar.


Mottainai (もったいない?, [mottainai]) is a Japanese term conveying a sense of regret concerning waste. The expression “Mottainai!” can be uttered alone as an exclamation when something useful, such as food or time, is wasted, meaning roughly “what a waste!” or “Don’t waste. … Mottainai has been referred to as a tradition, a cultural practice, and an idea which is still present in Japanese culture, which has become an international concept…”

Source: Wikipedia

What can you do with old Miso?

A steaming bowl of miso soup – for the most Japanese a piece of home and the essence of nourishment. A steaming bowl of evoking memories of childhood, family and tradition. It is likely that the number of ‘traditional’ miso soups equals the number of families in Japan and every sip of that soup functions like a time machine back into mom’s kitchen. So the ‘traditional’ miso soup is not only a nutritional powerhouse, but also full to the brim with taste and emotional memories.

A colourful bowl of miso soup
A colourful bowl of miso soup

Miso is one of the two major elements in miso soup, but it is certainly not the only use for this super food. Miso is an essential staple in the Japanese diet and is widely used in preparing dips and sauces, marinades (take a look here for a recipe) or in pickling and it also lends its flavor to wonderful deserts. Even though miso is so versatile, it happens that a pack is sitting in the fridge longer than aroma-wise beneficial (yes, you should keep your miso in the fridge to slow down deterioration). So what to do which ‘old’ miso? Throw it out? Of course not, because nothing goes to waste in the Japanese kitchen!

Here and now is not the time and place for an extensive, scientific essay on miso that has filled hundreds of pages in various books (see the link to a free download below)*. But generally speaking miso is a fermented food product with the fermentation process itself having the potential to function as a natural preservative. Miso also contains quite an amount of salt that acts as a natural preservative. So all in all, miso can be kept for a long time. It will not go bad easily, but once opened it will loose its aroma rather quickly.  So when you tend to use more than one type of miso or don’t use miso on a daily basis you’ll be likely to end up with some miso sitting in your fridge longer than two weeks. For me personally two weeks is about the cut off date for the aroma, but that is personal preference. I do know people that consider four weeks to be ok for them. Test it and trust your taste to find out what works best for you.

Version 2
Pickled turnips with neri miso as a dip

Whenever you find your miso has become old, it is time to rejuvenate it. Add some aromas and some dashi to create a wonderful sauce that works as good as a dip for fresh vegetables (e.g. cucumber, celery) as it does as a scalloped topping on tofu or wheat gluten or even thinned with dashi as a sauce to pan-fried vegetables. Miso prepared this way is called neri miso and means ‘stirred miso’. It is usually made from red miso (aka miso), though i have successfully experimented with all kinds of miso. Today’s recipe is a basic version of this sauce. Stay tuned for more options how to further pimp neri miso with herbs and nuts in the coming weeks.

Ingredients for one jar (ca. 125 ml)

  • ca 100 g    red miso
  • 20-30 g     sugar
  • 30-50 ml   sake
  • 30-50 ml  water or (kombu) dashi


Miso varies widely in consistency, flavor and saltiness, so the measurements for sake, sugar and water/dashi are guidelines only. When making neri miso start by using the lowest quantities and adjust consistency and taste to your liking, should it be necessary.

Version 2
Scalloped neri miso on fried tofu

Combine all the ingredients in a pot and mix them until they are blended well. If you have, use a deep pot, because the sauce tends to splatter. Reduce the sauce on medium heat, stirring constantly (!) until the consistency is creamy again. Don’t be tempted to reduce it too much, because neri miso will thicken in the cooling down process, so take this into consideration. Now is a good time to carefully (it is very hot!) taste your neri miso and adjust the flavor. Let the neri miso cool down and fill it in a clean and disinfected jar.


* Tip:

  1. Add ginger juice while the neri miso cools down for a quick twist on the basic recipe
  2. If you want to dive deeper into the history, the science, nutrition of miso, you may be interested in the free pdf-download of the ‘Book of Miso’ by William Shurtleff & Akiko Aoyagi

Kakisu: Loosing weight is a wonderful side effect

I know that I promised pictures of my Hoshigaki (dried persimmons) and a description how to make this Japanese treat at home. I am continuously documenting the progression of the drying process, but have not yet managed to write up the corresponding article. Sorry for that, I have to put you off for a bit more until I am ready to post this piece.

More exercise is the no.1 New Year’s resolution of German women, with a healthy diet and loosing weight being second and third. Well, I am not going to help you with exercising, but at least I can contribute the other two. Even a pretty yummy contribution: Kakisu (persimmon vinegar).

In Korea persimmon vinegar is rumored to be the secret weapon to loose weight easily. Busy (working) women drink a few glasses persimmon vinegar dilluted in water per day and some of them swear that nothing ever worked as good and easy in loosing weight.

Having three kids, a normal household (as much as a household can ever be normal with there little ones being intensely busy counteracting any attempt of tiding up), a garden and a job, I have neither time to exercise not to eat a lot. I wouldn’t consider myself skinny, but loosing weight has not yet appeared on my priority list. Maybe when I have more time (wonderful excuse – this way I will get around it for a looong time).

In my house making Kakisu always had culinary reasons. A fruity, yummy vinegar that I like to add to fresh and light summer dishes. My current vinegar is happily fermenting its way and should be ready in spring, just about when all the magazines start to promote the ultimate bikini-workout for the upcoming beach season. As I have it sitting around, why not test the loosing weight effect of Kakisu? I will keep you updated how it goes (without pictures :-).

Vorbereitung der Kakis
Remove calyx before adding it to the pot

Kakisu is embarrassingly simple to make. If you want to join me in my loosing-weight experiment or if you are curious about making persimmon-vinegar yourself, start your pot, before the season is over.

Ingredients for one pot

  • 4-6 kg unwashed persimmons (various kinds are as ok as various degree of ripeness)
  • 1 big fermentation pot (non-reactive) without a lid
  • 1 piece of clean cotton, big enough to cover the pot
  • 1 string, long enough to wind around the pot twice


Do not wash the persimmons. The yeast on the skins is what you nee to get the fermentation process going.

Remove the calyx and stuff as many persimmons as you can cut side down in your pot (I like to put the ripe or overripe ones on the bottom to get the liquid production going fast). Put a clean cloth on top of the pot and tie it down with the string. That’s basically it.

Kakis im Gaertopf
Simple start: put persimmons in a pot, cover and wait.

From now on you should mix and squish the persimmons every two days. The first one or two times it is more of a rearranging from top to bottom than mixing. The first two or three times I usually add more persimmons, as the increasing degree of persimmon mash creates room for more persimmons to be added to the mix.

Kakis nach vier Tagen
Fermenting persimmons after four days

After about a week you should have a puree that is happily fermenting it way, forming a fruity and foamy persimmon-mash. Keep mixing every other day for another three to four weeks. Don’t forget to taste it once in a while. After about a month the persimmon-mash should start to get vinegary overtones. This is your sign to stop mixing. Let it rest to form a ‘mother’ on the surface, mature and mellow for the next three months.

Kakis nach 2 Wochen
Fermenting persimmons after two weeks

Don’t forget to taste it periodically. Once it has mellow fruity vinegar taste it is time to strain it through a piece of sarashi (Japanese fabric that today is often used in Japanese cooking), a double-layered cheese cloth or a similar cloth). Plan a couple of days for this process; because of the amount of mash, extracting the vinegar will take some time.

And of course there is another use for the persimmon-puree that is left behind in your cloth, so don’t throw it out! Store it in a lidded container in your fridge and use it to pickle daikon or turnips in it. You might also want to store a bit of it in a separate little jar as a condiment. It can be an alternative to ume boshi (Japanese pickled plums) puree. As such to a simple dish as or shio-zuke (salt pickles) as a fruity kick or spread it as a sauce on roulade and add a shiso leaf (Japanese leafy spice) before you roll it up and fry it.

Achara-zuke with Turnips and Persimmons

I did order more persimmons. Much more. Twenty kilograms, to be precise. Just about when my youngest daughter, who had been eating one big persimmon per day, decided that from now on ‘mikan’, which are mandarins, are her favorite fruits.

So now I have this big pile of wonderful fruit sitting on my terrace waiting to become something delicious. Actually a quite typical situation when you live with the seasons. Something we hardly know anymore, given the year-round-availability of products. We are used to go into the supermarket and find whatever a specific recipe calls for. If it is not in season it might be a lot more expensive and the quality might not be what we would like it to be, but you can be sure to find everything somewhere. Living with the seasons, however means that fruits and vegetables that are available are of excellent quality and taste. This is the good news. The challenge is, that over the course of a vegetable’s season you get a lot of it on your kitchen counter. The art of (Japanese) cooking is therefore not only focus on the seasons, but also to find many creative ways to transform a specific ingredient. This is nothing that happens over night. It requires a rethinking in the way we want to feed ourselves; it requires a lot of practice, joy to experiment, trial and error and patience. But it is certainly doable. You will not only be rewarded with many new dishes and an extension of your repertoire. Grocery shopping will be much faster and easier. No more frustration because the vegetables your recipe calls for are beyond their prime, or the fruits need a couple of days before they are ready to eat, but you dinner is tonight. No more remorse that the fish you are about to buy doesn’t look so appealing anymore, but it is the only one left, so you take it anyway. Living with the seasons means you take home whatever is fresh and looks appealing, knowing you can turn it into something delicious. Give it a shot, it is worth it.

So back to the 20kg persimmons on my terrace. Kaki no Shira-ae (persimmons in tofu sauce) is certainly something that my family likes to eat throughout the persimmon-season, but as much as they do, they don’t like to eat it every day. So we eat our persimmons grilled, dried, pickled, in salads, made into vinegar and maybe even as a pickle medium, because in Japan this is a way to use up overripe fruits. Regular readers of this blog know by now that I don’t get tired to mention that nothing goes to waste in a traditional Japanese kitchen. And this is – again – a wonderful example of it.

But before I will show you the pictures of my Hochigaki (dried persimmons) next week and explain how I am preparing this Japanese delicacy at home, you find a recipe for Achara-zuke (a quick sweet and sour pickle dish) using persimmons and turnips. Achara-zuke is actually a summer dish and can be prepared with lots of different vegetables, but in using fresh persimmons it becomes a winter dish.

Achara-zuke ingredients
Achara-zuke ingredients

Ingredients: Serves 4

  • 1 persimmon
  • 2 big turnips
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • 125 ml Achara-su* (sweet-sour vinegar)
    • 100 ml rice vinegar
    • 60 suigar
    • 25 ml dashi (for a vegan dish use kombu-Dashi)
    • ½ dried Togarashi (Japanese chili), without seeds, alternatively you can use deseeded, fresh chili


Combine all ingredients for the Achara-su except the togarashi (Japanese chili) in a non-reactive pot, stir while heating it over medium heat until the sugar dissolved completely. Remove from the heat, add the togarashi and let cool to room temperature.

Achara-su in the cooling-down phase
Achara-su in the cooling-down phase

In the meantime wash and julienne the turnips. Sprinkle them in a bowl with some salt, gently mix and let them sit for about 15 minutes to draw out the liquid. While this is happening peel and cut the persimmons into fairly thin stripes (save the peels if you are into fermenting).

Julienned turnips and persimmons (with the peels ready for drying)
Julienned turnips and persimmons (with the peels ready for drying)

Rinse and drain the turnips and gently squeeze out any excess water with your hands. They should taste slightly sweet and a bit salty and should be flexible, but still crisp. If they are too salty – rinse, drain and squeeze them again.

Achara-zuke waiting to mature
Achara-zuke waiting to mature

Mix the turnips with the persimmons and submerge them in Achara-su for about an hour before serving them in small dishes. When plating, I like to add a small piece of togarashi on top to alert people that it is a spicy dish.

Final dish
Final dish

* Tip: If you like Achara-zuke double or even triple the recipe for Achara-su. It keeps well and if you have it on hand preparing Achara-zuke is a matter of minutes.